Tag Archive | Tax collectors

The Deceitfulness of Self Righteousness – Luke 18:1-23

From my reading in Luke 18:1-23 in the One Year New Testament.

Jesus tells a powerful story of people who had great confidence in their own righteousness. A Pharisee and a tax collector to the temple to pray…

The Pharisee thanked God that he wasn’t a sinner like everyone else,“I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week and I give you a tenth of my income.” Luke 18:11-12

The tax collector stood at a distance and didn’t even dare to lift his eyes to heaven because of his shame. Instead he beat his chest in sorrow and prayed, “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” Luke 18:13

Here’s is Jesus summary of the parable…

“I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:14

This would have shocked his audience who hated tax collectors and looked up to the “righteous” Pharisees.

Only The Penitent Man May Pass

One of my favorite scenes in the Indiana Jones series is when he reads the phrase “only the penitent man may pass.” He reads it over and over then then suddenly realizes that he needs to kneel to keep his head from getting removed from his body!  So he does and avoids the decapitation.

Only the “penitent man” will be forgiven and exalted by God.

Our works of righteousness can trick us into thinking that we don’t need forgiveness. One of the problems with the Pharisee was that he was “good” by the world’s standards, but he was not considering God’s standards. It is true that compared to most people the Pharisees were indeed better off. But their comparison led to pride, which actually separates from God.

Even the most “holy” among us need Christ’s forgiveness.

“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6

To receive the forgiveness of Jesus we must realize that even our best efforts don’t earn us favor with God.  They are useless in gaining God’s favor and will be thrown out like dirty rag.

Are you willing to admit your sin to God or are you relying on your good deeds to earn you His favor?

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Why Actions Speak Louder Than Words – Matthew 21:23-46

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 21:23-46 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what predictions were made, the team that wins will be the Champion. Because actions trump words!

Two Types of People

Jesus tells a powerful story to the religious leaders of the day. Here’s my summary: A man told both of his sons to work in the vineyard. First, the older son said ‘no I won’t go’, but later changed his mind and went. Second, the younger son said, ‘Yes sir, I will’. But he didn’t go. Then Jesus asked them,

“Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” Matthew 21:31

Prostitutes before Pharisees? 

Jesus told the religious leaders that the least respected people who humble themselves and choose to obey God would get into the Kingdom before the most respected who do not obey God.

“For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.” Matthew 21:32

Though the religious leaders appeared to be following God, they actually refused to repent and respond to John the Baptist’s or Jesus’ teaching. Many of the prostitutes and tax collectors on the other hand changed their minds and believed in Jesus! 

Humble obedience is greater than prideful promises. 

From this passage we can learn that we should be careful that we are ACTUALLY responding to what God is commanding us instead of mearly talking about what we are going to do.

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Jesus Partied With A Purpose – Matt 9:1-17

 Reflection from my reading in Matt 9:1-17 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

From Traitor To Gospel Writer

 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.  Matthew 9:9 

Jesus was criticized for the company he kept. Tax collectors were known as traitors because they not only worked for the Roman oppressors, but they also charged extra and kept money for themselves. But Jesus asked one of the tax collectors, named Matthew, to follow him.

Matthew later became a gospel writer! Jesus looked at Matthew and saw him for what he could be instead of what he was. Jesus gave him a second chance and Matthew took it!

Chill’n With Jesus

 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.” Matthew 9:10 

I love the picture of Jesus reclining with the most notorious sinners of the day. Very often when someone comes to Christ, there are good opportunities for them to reach out to their friends. I believe one reason Jesus was able to have access to the tax collectors and sinners was because they were Matthew’s friends! Jesus used natural connections in order to reach his friend’s group.

In order to reach people, we have to be around them. When was the last time you just hung out with non-believers?

It Doesn’t Look Good…

 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Matthew 9:11 

Jesus was criticized by the religious leaders of the day. Jesus was willing to let his reputation suffer for the sake of loving those people and showing them mercy.

A Hospital for Sinners 

 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Matthew 9:12–13 

Jesus preferred spending time with those who knew they needed him over those who thought they were perfect. Jesus came to heal the spiritually sick. Jesus showed us that mercy is greater than sacrifice. As a church, I believe we must follow Jesus’ example of spending time with people who need God and provide a safe place for sinners to come receive the healing in our services. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes of what the Church should be,

“The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” – Abigail Van Buren

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